Information for affected and their familiy
 
Fatgue
Causes of fatigue

Fatigue appears as a symptom of several diseases. It is mostly mentioned in the context of cancer. Other diseases which cause fatigue are autoimmune diseases, chronic infections and mental disorders. Besides the physical impact of these diseases the often long-term and exhausting therapeutic measures are responsible for the genesis of fatigue.

The cause of fatigue is being seen as a combination of multiple facts and therefore develops for different reasons. The treatment of an illness can cause changes of the metabolism, the hormone level and brain functions.

Causes of fatigue

Fatigue appears as a symptom of several diseases. It is mostly mentioned in the context of cancer. Other diseases which cause fatigue are autoimmune diseases, chronic infections and mental disorders. Besides the physical impact of these diseases the often long-term and exhausting therapeutic measures are responsible for the genesis of fatigue.

Cancer-related fatigue

Although the exact causes of fatigue have not been explored yet, some factors are being ensured to cause the exhaustion. If the fatigue is caused by cancer it is the tumour’s cells that produce a substance which causes anaemia, fever or loss of weight. These changes weaken the patient and cause exhaustion and tiredness. Therapeutic measures like chemotherapy and radiation therapy do not only have an impact on the cancer but also upon healthy cells which are being destroyed. Psychologically, the life threatening impact cancer can have, can also challenge the patient’s energy account.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms of fatigue are a long-term tiredness and lassitude even though the patient sleeps regularly and sufficiently. Due to the mental impact a chronic disease has upon the patient, insomnia can occur and enforce the exhaustion. Many patients do not depict fatigue as a medical symptom because they expect the signs to be side effects of the disease. Therefore they do not report the symptoms to their doctor and cannot use the methods of treatment. Listlessness, a depressive mood and a low frustration tolerance can be depicted as further symptoms of fatigue.

Combination of multiple facts

The cause of fatigue is being seen as a combination of multiple facts and therefore develops for different reasons. The treatment of an illness can cause changes of the metabolism, the hormone level and brain functions. In this context, an impact upon the hypothalamus, the brain region responsible for alertness and attention, is being presumed. Modifications in the metabolism of fats and proteins lead to muscle disorders and the loss of energy. Mental stresses and strains in the context of chronic diseases can be the cause as well as a symptom of a fatigue.

The destruction of cells

The treatment of cancer with chemotherapy does not only involve the destruction of cancer cells but also of healthy cells. Several types of cells are being destroyed: white blood cells (leukocytes), red blood cells (erythrocytes) and blood plates (thrombocytes). The loss of leukocytes leads to a weakening of the body’s immune reaction, the loss of erythrocytes and thrombocytes cause a lack of oxygen in the organs and anaemia.

Barbara Kliem

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One of the difficult tasks while coping with fatigue is to make the surrounding understand the permanent exhaustion and tiredness. On the other hand the surrounding cannot see clear visible signs of fatigue and can experience difficulties to put themselves in the position of the patient. In order to prevent mental burdens, relaxing and joyful activities should be planned for every day.

Although fatigue patients experience permanent tiredness, many of them suffer from insomnia. A light hypnotic can help to fight severe sleeping problems but it should have a short impact and should not take an effect the next day.

In order to treat the lack of blood (anaemia), either red blood cells are administered to the body in a transfusion or the body’s own production of red blood cells is stimulated with hormones. Both methods lead to a quick multiplication of oxygen in the blood and, for this reason, to an increase of a person’s energy and productivity.

If the fatigue is caused by muscle weaknesses, a systematic exercise programme can be used for therapy. Endurance sports like jogging, swimming and cycling are effective means of exercise for fatigue patients.

“Fatigue” is the French word for tiredness or exhaustion and is also being called languidness or lassitude. It designates an exhaustion symptom which occurs with chronic diseases. As it is perceived by the patient and not visually noticeable to others it is a symptom opposed to a medical sign and primarily used in connection with cancer. It describes a feeling of sustained tiredness and listlessness that has an impact on the daily life of the concerned persons. In despite of sufficient sleep the patient feels weak, exhausted and overstrained.